Steve Crawford’s Top 25 Songs of 2016
A difficult year to keep up with current music due to the project I started on country music history. I undoubtedly missed many keepers that I will discover later. Thanks to the inexhaustible Iman Lababedi for keeping abreast of the endless stream of new and pointing me (and the regular Rock NYC readers) toward the goodies.
25. “The Three of Me,” William Bell. Country soul from Mr. “I Forgot to Be Your Lover” that sounds like Stax circa 1967.
24. “When I Wake Up Tomorrow,” Cheap Trick. Legendary recyclers split the difference between catalogue favorites “Say Goodbye” and “Tonight It’s You” for a new version of the night sweats.
23. “Arkansas Summer,” Chris Maxwell. Former leader of The Gunbunnies (THE hot band on the Little Rock music scene circa 1990) and staff writer for the wildly popular animated series “Bob’s Burgers” channels his inner John Lennon while revisiting an unpleasant childhood.
22. “Need You Tonight,” Bonnie Raitt. Bonnie tales that Aussie weak sauce and reshapes it with gritty blues licks.
21. “Falling in Love Again,” John Prine and Alison Krauss. The favorite song of Alison’s father, delivered with understated grace.
20. “How the Mighty Have Fallen,” Margo Price. Quad Cities native (I miss that Whitey’s ice cream) mixes a girl group drum beat with retro country heartbreak.
19. “Don’t Make Me Wait,” Emma Pollock. What contemporary Top 40 music should sound like.
18. “I Hate the Weekend,” Tacocat. Graham Parker once declared the death of Saturday night. These pop punksters want to dance on its grave.
17. “Girl Next Door,” Brandy Clark. More actress than badass, but a nice kiss off nonetheless.
16. “I’ll Be Haunting You,” They Might Be Giants. They can’t get out of their irony straight jacket, but don’t ignore the rhythm section.
15. “Finish Line Drown,” Chance the Rapper. Gospel plus hip hop are the beans and cornbread of modern pop black music.
14. “Save Me,” Anthony Hamilton. Another Hamilton worthy of a pop culture phenomenon, the soul veteran sounding like prime ’70s Stevie Wonder.
13. “Heaven Sent,” Parker Millsap. Preacher’s kid discovers he’s gay. Hysterical hijinks ensue!
12. “A Place in My Heart,” Lucinda Williams. The best love songs are the simplest.
11. “South Bend Soldiers On,” Robbie Fulks. A grieving father knows he has lost what can never be reclaimed. From my album of the year “Upland Stories.” Also, check out the awe inspiring performance of “Long I Ride” from the Fulks Audiotree live session. Robbie is a working man in his prime right now.
10. “Don’t Make Me Do It,” Mys Niki. A classic soul sound – think Atlantic Records not Motown. Brought to the modern age with the side piece lyrical dilemma.
9. “Am I Wrong,” Anderson .Paak. Proof that Earth, Wind & Fire’s Maurice White did not die in vain.
8. “Dropping Houses,” Wussy. Sounds like an alt rock Tom Petty writing Beck’s “Loser,” but with results much better than that reads.
7. “Nobody Dies,” Thao & The Get Down Stay Down. Lyrically disturbing, fascinating art punk. Imagine David Byrne singing in the lyrics if it seems too impressionistic at first spin.
6. “Voices in My Head,” Bob Mould. If anger wasn’t his calling card, this natural melody maker could have spent his life making the world humming, instead of just the previously converted.
5. “Make America Great Again” Pussy Riot. Bossa Nova agitprop from the most important musical leftists rocking in the not so free world.
4. “Because I’m Me,” The Avalanches. Australia’s indefatigable samplers bring back technicolor ’70s disco euphoria.
3. “What It Means,” Drive-By Truckers. Stop, children, what’s that sound? The Southern rockers commentary on institutional racism in America.
2. “Lay Me Down,” Loretta Lynn and Willie Nelson. I once thought there would never be a better song about Christianity than Billy Joe Shaver’s “Live Forever.” I may have been wrong.
1. “My Body is Made of Crushed Little Stars,” Mitski. Mitski wants to see the world, ace the interview, get killed in Jerusalem. The performance simultaneously screams, literally, existential fatalism and undeniable triumph. She works better under a deadline.